If the 2016 presidential election were held today the voting results would be the following, according to recent Fox News and McClatchy/Marist polls:
Hillary Clinton defeats Rand Paul by 51 to 42% (Fox) or 54 to 40% (McClatchy/Marist); Hillary Clinton defeats Chris Christie by 50 to 42%, or 53 to 42%; Hillary Clinton defeats Jeb Bush by 51 to 42%, or 55 to 39%.
Of course anything can and probably will happen between now and November 2016, but it is almost a foregone conclusion that Hillary Clinton will be the 2016 Democratic nominee. By the looks of these early polls, she has a better than average chance of defeating the likely GOP candidate.
As a Republican cheering for the other side, I am not pleased by the prospect of a Hillary presidency, but I must admit that Bill Clinton as First Man, First Dude, First Gentleman, or whatever title becomes the media standard promises to be a fascinating chapter in American presidential history.
The most interesting part of this role reversal stems from a phrase that then-governor Bill Clinton used to throw around during the 1992 campaign, when he was running for president against President George H. W. Bush. It was the notion of a “two-fer” in the White House. Candidate Bill Clinton was implying that his lawyer-wife Hillary would play an important role in his administration should he win the presidency.
The most important role that Mrs. Clinton ended up playing was the unsuccessful attempt at shepherding the controversial Clinton health-care plan through Congress. (This program was the unpopular 1990s forerunner of Obamacare.) Through her failed health-care initiative as well as becoming embroiled in the several scandals — including Whitewater and a 10,000% profit in cattle futures that was both highly improbable and never explained — Hillary Clinton became an extremely polarizing and controversial first lady. She coined the now infamous phrase vast right-wing conspiracy to describe a shadowy group of political enemies who, in her mind, were responsible for all the allegations surrounding her husband’s inappropriate conduct with a White House intern.
If Hillary Clinton does manage to become the first woman president of the United States, it will be a historic achievement not just for women but for presidential families: A first spouse who has already served the constitutional limit of two four-year terms as president is almost too much to fathom.
So let’s explore this unusual dynamic from several perspectives.
First, will the “two-fer” concept be revived, and if so will it have a positive or negative effect on Mrs. Clinton’s 2016 election prospects? Whether the Clintons revive it or not, the concept will be raised in the conservative media and should be seriously addressed by both Clintons, since they both embraced it as an asset in 1992.
From a pure feminist viewpoint, a “two-fer” could actually be a problem for Clinton’s campaign, conflicting with the soon-to-be-rebranded image of Hillary alone as a strong, decisive, woman president. Especially among younger women, a “two-for-the-price-of-one presidency” might not offer the same cachet it did among women in the ancient days of 1992. In fact, “a two-fer” in 2016 could make candidate Hillary look weak, especially if Bill Clinton is perceived as very strong and decisive during the campaign.
Second, does Hillary even want a co-presidency? And what difference does it make anyway? (You will be hearing that phrase a lot.) Keeping Bill out of the Oval Office will be nearly impossible, especially if he remains more popular than Hillary, which is what a March Wall Street Journal/NBC poll revealed. Bill Clinton elicited a 55% combined “very positive” or “somewhat positive” feeling from voters, whereas Hillary earned a combined 44%. How will Hillary keep from being overshadowed by a spouse who is the most popular Democrat in the nation once she announces for president?
Bill is so popular that he currently is being used to save the Democrats in the midterm elections, in the same way that he helped boost a sagging President Obama at the 2012 Democratic convention and in the final months of that campaign.
In fact, assuming that Bill’s popularity remains high going into 2016, reviving the “two-fer” concept might make good political sense.
A “co-presidency” could come in handy as a weapon to be used against Obama fatigue, if Hillary is saddled with the argument that a vote for her would be analogous to giving Obama a third term. Asking voters to give Bill Clinton his “third term” would be a much lighter lift.
Hillary will make the case that she has all the qualifications and experience to be president, but will voters naturally assume that Bill will take on an active role as a co-president?
Then, don’t forget that someone has to be vice president.
Pray for that person, who will be caught between two President Clintons. Perhaps Hillary Clinton’s vice president could add a new job to the constitutional task of deciding tie votes in the Senate: casting the tie-breaking vote in disputes between the co-presidents.
Finally there will be a comedic aspect to all this. If Bill Clinton becomes First Dude, the late-night comedians will be forever telling 1998-vintage jokes with punch lines such as “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” and “What happens in the White House stays in the White House.”
You can count on Bill Clinton imitators out on the campaign trail saying, “You know you all want me back in the White House, but I am not sure Hillary does.”
Also, there will be skits with “sightings” of mandatory electronic monitoring bracelets for Bill and all the female White House interns.
Whether you are “Ready for Hillary” or not, it’s too late to turn back now, for Bill Clinton First Dude buttons are being offered for $2 each. They’re even “union-printed.” A Facebook page is dedicated to “First Man” and “First Gentleman.” A bumper-sticker for sale reads: “Another feminist for Bill Clinton First Lady.”
“Bill for First Lady” T-shirts are all over the Internet, and the party is just getting started.
Cross-posted at the National Review